Sometimes it’s hard to read the old testament without yelling at the people. Have you ever done that? I find that I’m often frustrated to read how the Israelites wandered for 40 years because they just couldn’t trust the Lord and listen to him. But as much as I get frustrated with those disobedient Israelites, I have to stop for a minute and think about my wandering ways.
In Leviticus, the Lord gives his people a very clear requirement to follow for atoning their sins. Without the grace, there had to be a way to make atonement for their sins. And not just the sins they knowingly committed but ALL sins. Can you imagine having to butcher an animal and go through the very specific and intricate ceremony EVERY time you sinned? And if you missed, skipped or messed up a step, back to the beginning it was. The ceremony not only had to be completed in a specific order but through a specific group of people (Moses’ family), and all of this to receive forgiveness of sins. I wonder how many people skipped this altogether.
Fast forward several hundred years and the writer of Hebrews points out that there is one greater than Moses. Moses only “testified to the things that were to be spoken later” but Christ came to make a better way and fulfill God’s ultimate plan. So here’s the ironic thing. I sit here and read the Old Testament yelling the Israelites who wandered in the desert even though they literally saw God’s power alive and active. For days and weeks and months the Lord provided for them. He brought them out of slavery, guided their path, gave them chance after chance and even provided for them a way to atone for their sins and get right with God and many STILL didn’t really believe in him. They were stubborn and rebellious. But guess what? So. Are. We.
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Ugh. How often do I wander? Why can’t I learn from my mistakes and my rebellious heart and follow hard and fast after Jesus? How can I be successful in this day and age with the technology and media that surrounds me 24/7? But once again, the word speaks loud and clear and gives me a way to combat this in the verses that follow. The message version clears up nicely how to avoid wandering:
12-14 So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.
I am so thankful for these incredible words written by the hands of men through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What would we do without them? Not only does the living word of God point out where we go wrong but it immediately tells us how to correct and then stay on course. We are warned to always be searching our own hearts but also to help our Christian friends. Oh how quickly I forget that iron sharpens iron and the best way to stay on track in this crazy world is to have the Word of God in one hand and a handful of friends in other. Friends willing to sharpen me and keep me keep me on my toes.